State closes incitement case against Safed rabbi

Prosecutors unable to prove that Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu actually made the statements of incitement attributed to him.

July 8, 2012 18:39
3 minute read.
SAFED CHIEF Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu

Eliyahu 311. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)

The Justice Ministry announced on Sunday that it is closing its investigation into allegations of incitement by Safed Chief Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu.

The announcement said that there was not enough evidence to prove that Eliyahu had made the statements of incitement attributed to him.

Moreover, there was considerable evidence showing that his actual statements may have differed in a legally significant way from those attributed to him.

The investigation was opened after it was alleged that Eliyahu had made statements of incitements against Arabs while rallying support for a Jewish religious-legal decree he issued banning renting or selling residences to Arabs.

Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein also appeared to want to close the case, as he believed it had been opened somewhat prematurely because of Eliyahu’s past statements and history.

In 2006, the attorney-general investigated Eliyahu on similar charges, but dropped the case after he apologized for his statements.

The most recent probe did not cover halachic rulings made by the rabbi that were also allegedly of a racist nature.

Specifically, the investigation never covered the “rabbis’ letter” of December 2010, which 50 rabbis, including Eliyahu, signed.

The rabbis issued a ruling in the letter that it was forbidden, according to Jewish law, to rent or sell property to non-Jews.

At the time the probe was opened, the Attorney-General’s Office said that Eliyahu had allegedly stated that “Arab culture is very cruel,” “Jews do not need to run away from the Arabs. A Jew must chase out Arabs,” and “expulsion of Arabs from Jewish neighborhoods is part of the strategy.”

Following the submission of numerous complaints about Eliyahu’s public statements relating to the Arab community, the attorneygeneral decided to open an investigation into the rabbi on suspicion of criminal incitement to racism.

At the time, Eliyahu’s office responded that the rabbi “welcomed” the attorneygeneral’s announcement that there would be no investigation into the letter, and his “principled stance against intervening in halachic rulings.

“The rabbi is certain that an investigation regarding his various public statements will allow [him] to clarify his position clearly and unequivocally, which is that the state must act against parts of the Arab population who support terror, and not against the entire Arab community.

“The rabbi hopes that the day will come when there is real equality before the law, especially in the field of freedom of expression of spiritual leaders, without discrimination between the Right or Left,” Eliyahu’s office said.

The Israel Reform Movement, which submitted the complaint about the rabbis comments more than two years ago, slammed Sunday’s announcement, calling it a miserable decision.”

“All Israeli citizens must protest the criminal racism that guides Rabbi Eliyahu,” said attorney Einat Hurwitz of the Reform Movement’s legal action center.

Reform Movement director Rabbi Gilad Kariv said that the decision pointed to “a clear policy of the lawenforcement authorities to grant immunity to rabbis and to avoid confronting them,” and that the ruling “buries” the legal prohibition on incitement to racism.

The movement said in a statement that it did not consider this the end of the story and said that the decision would come before the High Court of Justice.

MK Uri Ariel, chairman of the Knesset State Control Committee, said that the file should never have been opened in the first place and that the Attorney-General’s Office was politically motivated against rabbis and the political Right.

“This case was designed to injure an entire community and its leader, and proves that there is no escape [from the necessity of] establishing a supervisory body for the Attorney-General’s Office as soon as possible,” Ariel said.

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